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    Getty Image Copyright Woes


    I have a client that got a letter from a law firm representing Getty Images. Apparently my client had hired someone who either intentionally or accidentally used a few images from Getty on his site. At the time of development my client was not aware of any such considerations as image copyrighted material being used on websites. This is not a excuse mind you, but rather an explanation.

    Getty Images never sent any type of warning letter, I think it is called cease and desist letter, but rather a demand letter for a considerable amount of money. My client apologized and removed the image(s) immediately. This was not good enough for Getty, or their hired lawyers if you will and demand letters keep coming.

    Correct me if I am wrong, but IF this were to go to a court of law, then a court would take into consideration if there was any actual intent on my client's side to abuse Getty's copyright policies, which there wasn't. Also a court would consider that Getty never sent a cease and desist letter and that my client removed any and all images immediately upon learning of their improper use. Additionally I would think that if a court did decide w/ Getty that they would take into consideration what if any damages were done and just how much monetary compensation should be awarded. Currently I think they are asking for $7500 for 2-3 images.

    Any feedback from anyone familar with this issue would be appreciated. T
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    Devshed Supreme Being (6500+ posts)

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    Not a lawyer, don't take my modship as implying an authority on the matter, cannot be held responsible, hire a lawyer for proper advice, etc.


    Yes, the court would likely see that the client did not intentionally break the copyright, and upon discovering s/he did, immediately removed the offending images. There was no willful intent to misuse them.

    But you should double-check whether the developer (or whoever) did not, in fact, leave a note or directions regarding the images. If they gave suitable indication that the images were under copyright and needed to be bought or changed before the site went public then your client may be in the wrong.

    The only thing I see that Getty could fight with is if the client actually profited from the "theft". In that case it's more like a license in retrospect and I might find the client responsible for whatever the costs would have been to use the image for however long.
    Through separate channels, I suggest contacting Getty and getting a quote for the kind of images and use that the client had...

    If I were you I might look up case law in these kinds of circumstances. If it looks to be in your/your client's favor then go ahead and throw the information back at them and see how they react.
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    Thanks for your reply on this matter. It sure is a thorn in the side of many "innocent" people out there. My client is nice guy who never thought he was doing something wrong. Did he profit from the images? Well I guess that is debatle as they were simply images uses on his website casadelmar dot com I have seen other clients deal with this in that they just sent 1 letter apologizing and indicating the image(s) were removed, then ignoring any follow up demand letters. Interestingly enough subsequent demand letters came from other law firms, as if they were selling "leads" off from one firm to another to attempt and/or employ other threatining collection techniques.

    Originally Posted by requinix
    Not a lawyer, don't take my modship as implying an authority on the matter, cannot be held responsible, hire a lawyer for proper advice, etc.


    Yes, the court would likely see that the client did not intentionally break the copyright, and upon discovering s/he did, immediately removed the offending images. There was no willful intent to misuse them.

    But you should double-check whether the developer (or whoever) did not, in fact, leave a note or directions regarding the images. If they gave suitable indication that the images were under copyright and needed to be bought or changed before the site went public then your client may be in the wrong.

    The only thing I see that Getty could fight with is if the client actually profited from the "theft". In that case it's more like a license in retrospect and I might find the client responsible for whatever the costs would have been to use the image for however long.
    Through separate channels, I suggest contacting Getty and getting a quote for the kind of images and use that the client had...

    If I were you I might look up case law in these kinds of circumstances. If it looks to be in your/your client's favor then go ahead and throw the information back at them and see how they react.
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    Devshed Supreme Being (6500+ posts)

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    The nice guy defense rarely holds up in court.

    Getty is a stock image company. If the developer used images without license then he was deliberately and intentionally defrauding the company and they are not required to send a cease and desist. They are owed the licensing fees for the use of their image. Which is rarely cheap. It is not a matter if anyone profited either, this was fraudulent use of licensed copy. Getty has a strong case and will likely prevail in any legal proceedings. Your client should go on a witch hunt for the developer, and stop by an IP attorney's office on the way.

    I'm not a lawyer either but I did study IP law. Your client absolutely needs to speak to an IP lawyer.
    medialint.com

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    Devshed Supreme Being (6500+ posts)

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    Oh yeah. Totally spend the time to find the developer.
    Originally Posted by medialint
    If the developer used images without license then he was deliberately and intentionally defrauding the company
    If I needed to find placeholder images for something, I'd Google it. If the results include images from a stock site then oops (but then why are they on a search engine to begin with?). I, personally, know better than to just blindly borrow stuff from the Internet, but someone else...

    At only 2 or 3 images I was thinking that they "just happened" to be from Getty. As in, there are other images (which may also be copyrighted...) that they don't own. Suggests that it was less than intentional.

    Bah! I've been one-upped by someone who knows what they're talking about.
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    Not trying to one-up I just think that's what the courts would find if it went that far. Most of the time you have to alter the photo to remove watermarks from stock images so that's where I think they could find it was intentional, if so altered. I believe getty pretty clearly marks all their images.

    You made a good point about the actual agreement with the developer, if the client agreed to replace photos or if the developer provided the site with photos merely as placeholders it probably is fully the client responsibility. I was quoted $750 for limited use of a photo on a small site once so I said "never mind" and turned to my own photos and poser to create the images I needed.

    But there are clearly damages since the company makes money by licensing photos. I also believe they have bots that go out looking for violations and have a pretty good team of lawyers to follow up on violators so it's probably never a good idea to "borrow" images from a company in the business of licensing them.

    Bottom line here though is a real lawyer should be consulted as soon as possible or the fees being requested paid for.
    medialint.com

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    Devshed Supreme Being (6500+ posts)

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    Originally Posted by medialint
    Most of the time you have to alter the photo to remove watermarks from stock images so that's where I think they could find it was intentional, if so altered. I believe getty pretty clearly marks all their images.
    That, I hadn't considered. When I think of stock photos I think of people leaning over a desk, or a dad playing with his daughter, or something equally cliche. And those don't have watermarks. (Of course not: somebody paid to get them removed )

    Originally Posted by medialint
    But there are clearly damages since the company makes money by licensing photos.
    Well yes, they didn't get the money from it. But would they have if the developer had known they were copyrighted? Probably not: s/he would have gone looking someplace else for an image. Would they have if the client realized they were copyrighted? Possibly, if s/he liked the photos enough to buy them.
    So really they were more likely to get money if the client had known about the problem. Had Getty said "Hey, those are ours; pay for them or take them down" instead of litigating like trolls, they might have made a sale.


    [edit] Lacking on the details, it could be that the developer pulled the photos from someplace else that had, in turn, licensed them from Getty. Which would mean that the dev didn't have to remove a watermark...

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